Getting children involved in packing wholesome, nutrient-rich lunch boxes is one of the most important things a parent can provide for their child. It’s best to start lunch box packing with your children early (8 or 9 years) to encourage healthy habits from a young age and teach them about healthy food choices and portion sizes.
Encouraging kids to pack their own lunches filled with foods that they actually enjoy can also prevent lunch skipping, swapping and unhealthy canteen purchasing. Choosing lunch box foods also promotes a sense of ownership of the lunch box contents which can aid in preventing lunch box leftovers at the end of the school day!
The school lunch box – what to pack?
Recess and lunch provide the perfect ‘pit stop’ for children to refuel. Packing a nutritious school lunch which includes protein such as beef or lamb, wholegrain bread, vegetables, fruit and dairy foods provide critical nutrients; important for energy and learning at school.
To help kids in the kitchen, we’ve devised the perfect lunch box formula portion template to help kids to pack the lunch box essentials in the correct portion size.
Make lunch box packing easy and download the lunch box formula portion template now. It's as simple as choosing one item from each of the categories below.
- Protein – beef, lamb, fish, chicken, legumes/beans, tofu
- Whole grain carbohydrate – multigrain bread, wrap, pita, flat bread, crackers, crispbreads, rice cakes, fruit muffin, wholemeal pikelets, muesli bar, air-popped popcorn
- Vegetables – salad in sandwich, wrap or pita, chopped veggie sticks with a dip
- Fruit – whole piece, container of fruit salad, small tub of fruit in natural juice
- Dairy – reduced fat milk drink, yoghurt, cheese, custard
- Water – the only drink kids need
Tips for parents to make child lunch box packing easy
- Plan to cook extra at dinner so there are dinner leftovers for sandwich and wrap fillings
- Pre-cut fruit and salad vegetables (score mango, slice peach, peel and slice carrot, chop cucumber) and wrap in plastic wrap or store in containers in fridge
- Pre-slice cheese to reduce the need for kids to use sharp knives
- Bake at home on the weekends and store items in airtight containers or wrap individually in plastic wrap and freeze. Baking at home is also a great way to discretely include more fruit and veggies in the lunch box.
- Buy yoghurt and custard tubs in 100-125ml ready to grab portion packs
- To reduce the need for plastic wrap, purchase small containers that can fit in the lunchbox and be washed at the end of the day
Kids packing their own lunches – 10 steps for success in busy households
- Timing is key! Encourage kids to prepare as much as they can the night before to avoid the crazy rush in the morning
- Provide a sturdy lunchbox which has space for 4-5 containers or compartments. Use this as an opportunity to teach your child to ‘reduce, reuse, and recycle’ for our environment
- Provide easy to open and close containers with spoons and / or forks that can be used to store foods within the lunch box
- Teach your child food safety by encouraging them to use a chilled insulator pack to keep foods cool over the summer months
- Colour code food items to correspond with recess and lunch breaks. Eating the right combinations of foods can help with energy, concentration and stamina. Use red stickers for recess and green for lunch
- Plan dinner meals which can be used for lunch box leftovers the next day e.g. A barbecue beef meal on Sunday night provides great Monday lunch leftovers for easy sandwich / wrap fillings that kids will love
- Set aside a small area in both the fridge and pantry that is suitable to your child’s height where they can store items ready for the lunch box
- Chop a variety of fruits, sprinkle with lemon juice and store in a container in the fridge to make fruit salad easy to grab and go. The fruit salad will keep for a 2-3 days without going brown
- Rotate the healthy home-bake job through the family to help teach kids how to cook whilst allowing everyone to have a favourite in the lunch box
- Stick the perfect lunch box template to the fridge to help your child plan and prepare the perfect lunch box
School lunch box ideas designed to nourish and please
Accredited Practising Dietitian and mother of two, Kate Di Prima has developed delicious and nutritious lunch box ideas that kids will love. This plan is filled with lunches designed from dinner leftovers the night before.
Download a recess and lunch meal plan for primary school aged children
Turn dinner leftovers into a lunch kids love
Cajun chargrilled beef rump steak with grilled corn, sweet potato wedges and red cabbage slaw
Italian beef rissoles with grilled eggplant, tomato and parmesan
Rosemary lamb rump with balsamic roasted vegetables and haloumi